Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst

Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst
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ISSN: 2167-1044


High Spider Fearfuls can Overcome their Fear in a Virtual Approach-Avoidance Conflict Task

Pauline Dibbets,Riet Fonteyne

Spider-fearful persons are more reluctant to approach spiders and, if possible, tend to avoid their feared animal. These behavioural tendencies play a major role in the maintenance of their phobia. The present study is the first to motivate spider fearfuls approaching spiders in an approach-avoidance conflict. This was accomplished by using a virtual reality paradigm in which the participants had the choice between a safe, low rewarding, stimulus and a conflict symbol that signaled the occurrence of a high reward (80% of the trials) or a spider (20% of the trials). The results indicate that the virtual spider was capable of eliciting a strong fear response and that spider fearfuls can overcome their avoidance tendency in favour of a goal-directed approach response. Though no direct relation was observed between approach behaviour and a reduction in fear, spider fearfuls did report less spider fear, tension and disgust after the task. These results are promising for development of new treatment options for specific phobias.